Tag: mobile business

Want Digital Transformation? Start with your workflows.

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What is Digital Transformation?

By now, everyone’s heard of Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is the process of using technology to radically change your business to pursue new revenue streams & business models and to avoid disruption. But, what exactly does that mean?

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Digital Transformation is not a single IT project. It’s the combination of numerous projects that infuse “digital” into everything within your organization – from evolving the underlying technology to servicing your constituents increasingly on mobile to digitizing your processes to create efficiencies to integrating with third parties to create better customer experiences.

Ultimately, though, DBT is about organizational change to improve performance through the use of digital technologies.

Start with your Workflow

templates.pngTechnology itself makes a difference and creates innovation but at the end of the day it’s the people and the business processes in an organization that can truly drive change, disruption and transformation.

Automating your day-to-day workflows is at the very foundation of digital transformation. If your organization does not already have a workflow automation platform, I strongly suggest looking into one now. Using a platform, you can digitize forms for employees and customers and automate your routine processes. Once they’re automated, you can measure the effectiveness of those processes and optimize choke points to drive genuine change. You can collect and analyze your proprietary data in myriad ways to improve business performance.

Without workflow automation you’re still dealing with manual processes. You’ll probably need to worry about being disrupted and becoming irrelevant.

5 ways Workflow Automation can change your business

1. Increased Efficiency

What might the transformed, modern business application look like? It will undoubtedly:

  • Automate forms and workflows so there’s no need to print, sign and scan.
  • Integrate with data and systems to reduce tedious manual data entry.
  • Intelligently route documents to the right person at the right time to ensure that business constraints are satisfied.
  • Automatically support all mobile devices and speed up the approval process by providing 24×7 access from anywhere.

2. World Class Customer Service

if_seo_web_3-19_1152167.pngOver-delivering on customer service is the single most important thing you can do to increase revenue. Otherwise, today’s consumers will quickly move on to the competition.

Today, customers are used to interacting with your organization online at any time. If they need some information from your company and it’s only available during business hours, they’ll be frustrated and feel inconvenienced. Automation ensures that your customers have a smooth experience by enabling them to access information when they need it.

When employees are wasting time chasing down internal approvals, they have less time to focus on customer service. Automated approvals free up their time so it can be invested into what’s important: customers, students and patients.

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3. Enable Mobility

mobile-apps-175% of U.S. information workers rely on mobile. In response, businesses are prioritizing mobility with 88% of them saying that mobile functionality is either very important or an outright requirement.

But, one-off mobile apps are hard and barriers abound. Time, budget and skills are all in short supply. In addition, mobility nowadays is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install a native app.

Workflow automation systems offer visual and low-code approaches that let you provide business functionality in web-apps and spread that development out among more people – the “citizen” developers in your organization. That in turn eases pressure on I.T. teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.

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4. Business Agility

Business Value from Cloud

Automation taking advantage of cloud (+ mobile) is a critical driver of business agility – roughly speaking, the ability of your business to react rapidly to changing business conditions. Think of two main aspects:

  • Responsiveness – Enable employees to do the right thing at the right time. That means reducing business complexity (stop wasting time on paperwork, errors, missing signatures etc.), employee efficiency (let them work anytime, anywhere and using any device) and collaboration (access to people and information from anywhere as needed).
  • New Opportunities – Faster rollout of new business initiatives as business conditions change e.g. introduce a new product offering or modify internal processes to quickly satisfy changed customer demands even something as simple as letting people buy on their mobile phone.

Both are sources of significant competitive advantage. According to Harvard Business Review’s recent survey on Business Agility in the Cloud, companies are already seeing business value and benefits from simplification, collaboration, and faster reactions to new opportunities.

This business agility appears to lead to some very tangible and measurable outcomes: 49% are more likely to have entered a new market in the past three years i.e. rolled out business initiatives quickly to take advantage of a new business opportunity. Significant majorities believe cloud (+ mobile) reduces business complexity (71%), increases employee productivity (69%) and responsiveness to customers (53%).

 

5. Astounding ROI

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It’s often hard to see how much those paper- and email-based workflows are really costing you. Let’s do a quick analysis. Consider a 3-step workflow:

  1. Performed by an Employee – a Travel Authorization or Purchase Requisition. Let’s say this employee costs $80,000/year including benefits, vacation, taxes and other costs (equivalent to a salary of about $60,000).
  2. Performed by a Manager who essentially checks the request, approves it if it is valid or sends it back for corrections. Let’s say the manager costs $100,000/year inclusive of all costs.
  3. Performed by an HR or Finance person who essentially updates an internal system and does the equivalent of filing the request. Say, this is a part-time person costing $60,000/year.

Now, assume that the time savings are 10 min, 3 min and 3 min respectively in each step. That’s pretty conservative given there’s no printing, signing, scanning etc. involved. Finally, assume that there are 400 approvals per month of all kinds (Vacation requests, Sales Orders, Timesheets, Travel Authorizations etc.)

How much do you think you will save in costs? You might be shocked:

You’ll save ~$50,000 every single year or 57% of your costs and see net positive ROI in just a bit over 2 months.

That paper/email process actually costs you close to $85K per year. And that doesn’t even take into account the time spent trying to track down emails, chasing down managers for signatures or, perhaps of greater importance, the Opportunity Cost of delayed approvals.

Looking Ahead

Analytics and Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in the future of business transformation powered by digital technologies. But deploying these technologies relies on access to your proprietary data making it your most valuable asset. Workflow automation is the foundation. Think about it!

Paper- and email-based processes deny you access to your single most valuable asset – your business data.

Eventually, AI engines powered by data analysis will end up automating the optimization of your workflows. But, your processes need to be ready.

If you want digital transformation, start with workflow.

Interested in finding out more? Visit our website to and see how customers are already using frevvo’s public and private cloud solutions to transform everyday business processes.

 

Citizen developers and the I.T. skills gap

In previous articles, we’ve talked about the contributions being made by citizen developers in may organizations. They’re using low-code platforms like frevvo to create mobile web apps in record time for day-to-day business problems.

Last week, I came across this nice new infographic from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. As they say, “the skills gap is the difference between the technology available and the workforce’s ability to use it.”

Highlights of the infographic are:

Almost 40% of companies have a moderate to major skills gap. The resulting digital inefficiency can be deadly – costing you as much as 20% in lost productivity. Simple things like automating routine, everyday processes like Purchase Orders and Leave Approvals can go a long way.

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Automation can make a huge difference.

We think citizen developers can make a huge difference, especially when they’re given access to and training on low-code platforms like frevvo. We see it in our customers all the time – citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.

In fact, Central Wyoming College recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in less than 10 days of work. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.

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Check out the infographic on UAB’s website.

Among pacesetters, who believe technology is essential to development and blaze the way forward, almost 80% use citizen developers.

You have little choice. You simply cannot afford to take months to create a web portal or mobile app. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them. There’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.

With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector.

Hundreds of customers are already benefiting. Why not give it a whirl? Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself. It takes 30 seconds and you can install a template and try it out instantly.

[Infographic] The path to successful mobile apps

path-to-mobile-appsIn today’s business world, mobility has become synonymous with productivity in the workplace. The use of mobile technology has become a core aspect of everyday life, both at home and in the workplace.

70+% of the U.S. workforce will soon consist of mobile workers and mobile access has redefined how your employees work. They expect instant access to connected applications and information and this access has redefined how your employees work. They expect on-the-go access to their day-to-day business applications. The apps must fully work on all mobile devices and they also need to look good and be user-friendly. Otherwise, 60% of your employees will abandon your mobile app and revert to e-mailing PDFs around.

How will you deliver? Mobile apps that work on multiple platforms take forever, are absurdly expensive and require skills that are extremely difficult to find. If you don’t get it right, employees won’t use them.

That’s where a low-code platform like frevvo comes in. Check out this new infographic on how a platform like frevvo can help you overcome the barriers and get on a path to successful mobile apps.

Right now, our customers are creating customized apps for routine day-to-day approvals in days and weeks using existing [citizen] developers.

They don’t need HTML5 or CSS3 or Android app development skills and it doesn’t take 6 months and $100K to roll out a first beta version of the mobile app only to find out that employees hate the user experience and won’t even use it.

With frevvo, you too can easily start with a pre-built template and modify it to meet your business requirements. It’s easy and hundreds of customers are already doing it. We can help.

Learn more by visiting our website where you’ll find several customer success stories. Explore some of the examples and contact us for more information.

70+% of U.S. workforce will be mobile

PeopleFirstI came across this article about an IDC forecast on the U.S. mobile workforce. It links to an older version of the article but a newer one is here (payment required). IDC suggests that by 2020, the number of U.S. mobile workers will grow to 105.4 million and will make up an astounding 72.3 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work” – Bryan Bassett, Research Analyst, Mobile Enterprise: Device Solutions at IDC

Your employees expect to work on-the-go using their mobile devices – everything from responding to customers to routine day-to-day collaboration with colleagues. Yet, it’s practically impossible to find skilled native app developers and building mobile apps is absurdly expensive.

What’s a CIO to do? Turn to a platform like frevvo. Apps built using frevvo are wow-code, citizen-developer friendly, fast, effective and incredibly affordable. And, they just work automatically on all devices: desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

At frevvo, we just digitized a completely customized Purchase Order approval workflow for a University customer in 45 man-hours.

You too can effectively support those 3 in 4 workers who are rapidly transitioning to working on their mobile devices. They can fill out forms, sign documents, approve expenses, attach receipts and everything else in their daily work routine anytime, anywhere and from any device.

Check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Visual Rule Builder: business rules without the JavaScript

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Federal I-9 in Designer

In recent articles, we’ve discussed how frevvo and other low-code platforms are making it easier for citizen developers who aren’t coders-by-trade to create effective, high-quality apps.

Here at frevvo, we’re constantly working on improving our product to reduce the need to write code. Our customers are organizations (companies, Universities etc.) that use frevvo for real-world business forms like Purchase Orders and Employee On-Boarding. These forms usually have dynamic behavior – in frevvo, that means business rules. One of the most common business rules is where you want to show or hide certain parts of the form (a Section or Tab or any control) depending on data that’s been entered into the form elsewhere.

Show/Hide Alien Authorization Numbers in Federal I-9

Let’s take a look at an example – an employee on-boarding workflow where the user has to fill in a Federal I-9. The Federal form asks for Eligibility Status and for one of those statuses – an alien authorized to work until a certain date – the employee has to provide additional information. In earlier versions of frevvo, you’d have to write a business rule in JavaScript. Something like:

if (CitizenStatus === ‘WorkAlien’) {
AlienNumbers.visible = true;
} else {
AlienNumbers.visible = false;
}

Seems simple enough but these JavaScript rules and their interactions with each other can quickly get very complex and difficult to understand. Dynamic behavior then becomes much harder for citizen developers to implement effectively.

Enter the Visual Rule Builder

When you create the above rule, you can use visual wizards as shown below:

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What’s the condition that causes this rule to fire?
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What action(s) should be taken when the condition is true?

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[Optionally] What action(s) should be taken when the condition is false?
You can specify multiple conditions and a logic expression to evaluate them e.g. “A and (B or C)”. You can also specify multiple actions e.g. Show Alien Numbers AND Hide Citizen Information when the condition is true and vice versa when false. The Visual Rule Builder will generate a rule as shown below:

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If you need to edit the generated code, you can click Rule Code and make changes manually to the generated JavaScript. And, of course, the existing JavaScript-based rules continue to

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Show/Hide Section

be available – some things are impossible to do using wizards e.g. connecting to an HTTP URL and parsing the result in specific ways.

When you run the form, it works as expected. Choose the appropriate option (alien authorized to work …) and the required Section shows up. For any other option, the Section in question is not visible exactly as desired. As with all frevvo forms and workflows, it’ll just work automatically on mobile devices.

Simple and easy. Now, of course, this is the first iteration of the Visual Rule Builder (it’ll be released shortly with V7.2) and it can currently generate a subset of rules. For the others, you’ll have to use the existing Rule Editor. However, like everything in frevvo, we’ll keep improving it with every version so your citizen developers will be able to do more and more with it.

Mobility Part 4: Low-code platforms are the future

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43% of organizations use low-code platforms to support their I.T. strategy

Demand for mobile apps is exploding but continues to exceed development capacity and available skills. Companies are looking beyond native app development to other options using citizen developers.

They’re turning to low-code platforms including frevvo. Images in this article are from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required) – a provider of low-code mobile app development tools.

Low-code platforms dramatically increase productivity since they enable citizen developers not just coders-by-trade to develop applications. Citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.

At frevvo, we recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval for a University customer that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in just 45 hours. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.

mobile-apps-12Companies have little choice. In today’s business world, they must respond quickly to a rapid changing environment. Taking months to create a web portal or mobile app is simply not an option for most. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them.

As the various underlying technologies mature and platforms like frevvo get better and better at taking advantage of these advances, there’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.

With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector (SharePoint is coming soon, major upgrades to the Database Connector are in the works) or an ever-increasing variety of pre-built templates. I’m sure other platforms like OutSystems are no different.

Hundreds of customers are already benefiting. Why not give it a whirl? Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself. It takes 30 seconds and you can install a template and try it out instantly.

Mobility Part 3: Citizen Developers deliver results

In Part 1 and Part 2, we talked about how demand for mobile apps is exploding but there are many barriers to overcome. Companies are looking for new ways to tackle the mobility challenge by choosing the right technology to fit the problem and spreading development among more people.

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Alternatives to Native App Development

Everything needs to work on mobile. But it doesn’t have to be a native app. As technology has matured, companies have discovered that they no longer need to take a native-only approach to app development. Progressive web and responsive web have rapidly become mainstream as companies realize that these apps meet their business needs but they’re also much faster and cheaper to build. They also don’t require the same skill set that native app development does addressing one of the most important barriers to mobility.

Nowadays, mobility is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install an app.

As a result, I.T. professionals preference for native app development has steadily declined to where just 17% prefer it in 2017 down from almost 30% 2 years ago.

User expectations are exceedingly high and they want apps that not only deliver function, but that also look and feel amazing and alternative approaches are increasingly able to deliver.

Citizen Developers offer a viable alternative

mobile-apps-4An obvious side effect is that companies are looking for less technical, cheaper and easier-to-find skill sets like HTML5, JavaScript and UX over specialized mobile app developers. A growing number are turning to citizen developers who are not coders-by-trade.

Two-fifths (43%) are already supporting or planning to support citizen developers and it’s a trend that’s on the rise. Gartner predicts that 70% of  large enterprises will empower citizen developers in the next 3 years.

These citizen developers can genuinely help companies get things done without the need to hire people with hard-to-find and expensive skill sets.

mobile-apps-8In companies that support citizen developers, over 50% are already prototyping and building departmental applications and almost a third (30%) are building employee-facing applications. Customer-facing and enterprise applications remain the province of professional coders by and large but citizen developers are making strides there as well.

Low-Code, Great UX and Citizen Developers

At frevvo, we see these trends converging in our customers. They’re often using frevvo for employee-facing applications like Purchase Approvals or Travel Authorizations.They definitely want to digitize these on mobile devices and they need to look great otherwise employees won’t use them. But, of course, spending $500K on a native mobile app each time is a non-starter.

That’s where we come in – citizen developers with skill sets that already exist in many organizations can certainly drag & drop fields onto e-forms, setup basic workflow routing and, in some cases, even do some integration (wizards, wizards, wizards …). Of course, I.T. still needs to get involved at some stage e.g. SQL database integration and JavaScript-based business rules.

Technologies like frevvo allow app development to be spread out among more people. That in turn eases pressure on IT teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.

Automating these applications can deliver tremendous ROI with customers saving over 50% of the cost and seeing positive returns in under 3 months. And we’re working every day to further reduce the required skill sets e.g. with our upcoming Visual Business Rule Builder (more on that in a future article).We’ll write more about it in upcoming articles. In the meantime, check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Concludes in Part 4.

Graphs and many of the insights in this series of articles can be found in the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: the afore-mentioned OutSystems report for all images in this article.

Mobility Part 2: Barriers to Mobile Apps Abound

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Companies plan to build lots of mobile apps in 2017

In a previous article, I discussed how demand for mobile apps is soaring but backlogs are large. This again, from the OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report (opt-in required). Credit: this report for images in this article.

Demand is exploding – nearly half of all I.T. professionals (44%) said they plan to build more than 10 apps. Not surprisingly, large organizations plan to build even more apps. At the top of the list are reporting & analytics, process automation and customer portals. Again, this is not surprising given the rising importance of the customer user experience (UX).

Barriers are everywhere

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Time, Budget and Skills are huge barriers

I.T. organizations have discovered that creating effective mobile apps that people will actually use is very difficult.

Time is a major challenge because applications simply take too long to build: more than 3/4ths of respondents say that it takes them > 3 months to build apps and, in many cases, it takes over a year. Real business applications are complex, they need to integrate with a variety of business systems to be really useful and these systems vary in age from modern to decades old.

Budgets are an obvious problem since app development is a very expensive proposition. According to Forrester, 62% of companies report spending more than $500,000 to create just 1-3 apps with several spending over $5 million.

There’s a serious skills gap – 44% of companies cannot find people with the highly sought after skills they need and they’re very expensive to hire.

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The declining popularity of native app development

New Approaches can Yield Results

Put it all together and it’s obvious that new approaches are needed.

Organizations, including many frevvo customers are turning to alternate approaches that yield results. A growing number are migrating to Low/No-code systems because they meet business needs but are faster and cheaper. They can be effectively used by citizen developers and don’t require the same sort of hard-to-find specialized skill sets that native app development requires. Regardless of company size, industry, geography or any other factor, alternative approaches to mobility are increasingly taking hold.

We’ll discuss these approaches in more detail next time (see Part 3).

Mobility Part 1: Mobile App Requirements are Soaring

mobile-apps-2By now everyone knows mobile is eating the world. Billions of smartphones, 75% of US workers being mobile etc. In response, businesses are prioritizing mobile apps. 88% of them say that mobile functionality is either very important or an outright requirement.  OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report has this and other fascinating insights. (All images in this article are from the report.)

We particularly like the 2017 business priorities outlined in the Figure below.. Our customers already address the top priorities here using frevvo. They build forms and workflows for automating routine processes that integrate with disparate systems/data sources and work automatically on mobile. Of course, many of these digitized processes modernize and/or replace existing legacy systems.

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We like these 2017 business priorities a lot!

The problem is that creating these kinds of mobile apps is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. I.T. managers report huge backlogs of projects stacking up because they cannot meet the current demand. That’s because there’s a significant skills gap and building native mobile apps is hard and ridiculously expensive.

New low-code approaches like frevvo are yielding results. We’ll write more about it in upcoming articles. In the meantime, check out our website for some examples and this short (4.5m) video on creating beautiful, responsive mobile web forms with frevvo.

Continued in Part 2.

What’s a BYOD CIO to do?

Forrester’s 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report looked at 9,766 global information workers. “Anytime, anywhere information workers” that use three or more devices now constitute 29 percent of the global workforce. And, we’re just getting going in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) era.

Source: Forrester Research
Source: Forrester Research

Windows has 92% of the desktop, Mac OS has grown to almost 10% of laptops, iOS dominates tablets and users have all kinds of smart phones. But, 208M workers want an iPhone next and 200M want Windows tablets. What does it all mean? In a BYOD era, there’s no such thing as mobile device management in the enterprise.

Managing Users rather than Devices

CIOs and IT Departments are responding by deploying company applications in an [enterprise] cloud and managing user access to these applications rather than blocking Facebook and updating drivers on your hardware. At frevvo, we get to see this on a daily basis. Customers used to tell us – everyone’s running IE8 on Windows XP and that’s all we care about. Some still do but most want to deploy business applications in the [enterprise] cloud and they need to work “anytime, anywhere”.

Luckily, the options are growing every day. From Microsoft Office to CRM solutions to mobile forms, there’s no reason for IT to think about platforms and hardware. Much better to focus on important things like big data projects or process automation rather than babysitting iPhones.